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UN Forest Protection Talks Fail to Move Fast Enough, Kenya Says

United Nations talks on protecting forests aren’t moving fast enough even though voluntary projects are already generating emissions reductions, a Kenyan delegate attending this week’s climate talks said.

Kenya hosts the Kasigau Corridor forestry project, the world’s first to be issued with voluntary credits under a system called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD. Envoys meeting at the talks in Bonn approved text yesterday on a so-called REDD-plus mechanism to be adopted as part of an agreement the current limits in the Kyoto Protocol expire next year.

REDD-plus, which is designed to offer extra benefits alongside emissions savings from forests, is “progressing but not at the speed which some of us would want to move,” Alfred Gichu, senior assistant director of the Kenya Forest Service, said in an interview in Bonn. “I am however happy to note that the private sector has already taken the initiative, but they would be better facilitated had there been rules in place to govern their participation.”

Credits from REDD projects accounted for 29 percent of all offsets sold in the voluntary market in 2010, according to a report by Ecosystems Marketplace and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The trade in REDD credits has grown even though they are not yet accepted by the EU or any other mandatory compliance system.

Strong Involvement

“A lot of work needs to be done to establish the infrastructure -- an accounting system, reference levels, and capacity building -- all with a very strong involvement of the government,” Gichu said. “We may need to discuss at the national level how these market players access the market eventually. This may involve setting up a national registry.”

REDD projects can achieve premium prices in the voluntary market, according to London-based investor CF Partners.

“For specific buyers, REDD is at the top of the list, viewed as potentially the most sustainable voluntary credit out there,” John Davis, a specialist in originating and selling credits at London-based CF Partners, said in a telephone interview. These factors, he said, are “driving premium pricing relative to similar credits.”

Delegates from almost 200 countries are meeting in Bonn this week to advance negotiations about a global climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

Nations agreed in Cancun, Mexico, in December to outline a way to measure and curb emissions from deforestation. They also put in place safeguards that protect local residents and prevent perverse incentives such as replacing pristine forests with tree plantations for palm oil.

Slow Progress

“We’re concerned by slow progress towards guidance on implementing REDD-plus projects on the ground,” said Stephen Leonard, a legal consultant at Global Witness. “There was a failure to capture a lot of already agreed positions and we ended up with a vague text.”

“Issues have been pushed aside despite what appeared to be some agreement among countries earlier this week, particularly on safeguard mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions,” he said.

REDD has “taken a very small step forward when what needs to happen is a big step. The UNFCCC isn’t keeping up with the speed at which projects are being acted out,” he said.

The Bonn talks will pave the way for the annual Conference of Parties, the official decision-making body of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which meets from Nov. 28 to Dec. 9 in Durban, South Africa.

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